A Stanford engineering team has built a radio, equipped with sensors, computational units and antennas one-tenth the size of Wi-Fi antennas, that is able to gain all the power it needs from the same electromagnetic waves that carry signals to its receiving antenna. No batteries are required.
These radios, which are designed to compute, execute and relay commands, could be the key to linking gadgets together in the increasingly popular idea of the Internet of Things.
Today’s radios generally are the size of a quarter, according to Amin Arbabian, assistant professor of electrical engineering at Stanford and a researcher on the radio project. These new radios are much smaller. They’re 3.7 x 1.2 millimeters.
Radios that small could be added to everything from $100 bills to medical gauze, Band-Aids and home appliances. At just pennies per radio, that means a myriad of products could easily and cheaply become part of a linked network.
“This could be very important,” Arbabian told Computerworld. “When you think about the Internet of Things, you’re talking about needing a thousand radios per person. That counts all the radios and devices you’d need around you in your home and office environments. With 300 million people in the U.S., we’d have 300 billion radios.”
A Bluetooth-type radio works fine for smartphones but is too big and expensive to connect most of the objects in users’ lives.
“We needed the cost and size to go down, and you need scale,” said Arbabian, who began working on the project in 2011. “Do you want to put something the size of a Bluetooth radio on a Band-Aid? It’s too big. It costs a lot. The technology we have today for radios doesn’t meet any of these requirements.”
He explained that a tiny radio with a temperature sensor could be put on a bandage or piece of adhesive that’s applied to every patient that enters a hospital. The radio and its sensor would enable the medical staff to continuously track every patient’s temperature, a key health indicator, effortlessly and cheaply.
Sensors also could be used to measure air quality, to track medications from the manufacturer to the end user and to even keep track of tools and supplies in an operating room. For instance, Arbabian noted that a radio, encased in bio-safe material, could be attached to gauze or medical tools. With them, everything in an operating room could be tracked to ensure that nothing is left inside the patient at the end of surgery.
The radios also could be attached to every day products inside the home, including appliances, doors and windows.
The MEMS-IGZO display, being developed under a 2012 tie-up with Qualcomm subsidiary Pixtronix, could be used in smartphones and tablets as well as larger displays.
Compared to current LCDs, MEMS-IGZO technology can operate without blurring the image in temperatures as low as -30 C (-32 F), offers better color purity and gamut, and has ultra-low power consumption.
Depending on usage, devices could run for twice as long using the new displays instead of LCD, said Pixtronix President Greg Heinzinger.
The “programmable display” can change power usage depending on whether the user is looking at a video or an e-book, for instance, Heinzinger said, adding that most display technologies use the same power regardless of the content. Color gamut, depth and fidelity can also be modified depending on use.
Power efficiency will become a crucial feature of next-generation displays because resolution has basically reached the limits of perception of the human eye, Sharp Devices Group Chief Officer Norikazu Hohshi told the briefing.
The company is licensing MEMS (microelectromechanical systems) technology from Pixtronix. Qualcomm has long been trying to make the technology popular, and commercialized its related Mirasol low-power display in its Toq smartwatch last year.
MEMS displays work in a fundamentally different way than LCDs. Thousands of miniature shutters, as tiny as one per pixel, modulate light emitted from RGB LEDs to produce different colors. It takes only 100 microseconds for the shutters to move and the system has a faster reaction time than LCD pixels, which are each paired with a color filter to allow either red, blue or green light to pass.
IGZO (indium gallium zinc oxide) refers to Sharp’s semiconductor technology used with the MEMS shutters. The MEMS-IGZO displays can be built using existing LCD manufacturing infrastructure, which would be a cost benefit.
Google Inc rolled out in India on Monday the first smartphones under its Android One project, pricing them at around 6,399 rupees ($105) to capture the low-cost segment of the world’s fastest growing smartphone market.
The Mountain View-Based company tied up with Indian mobile players Micromax, Karbonn and Spice Mobiles to launch the affordable phones, which are powered by its operating system and aimed at emerging markets.
After launching in India, Google said it plans to expand Android One to Indonesia, Philippines and other South Asian countries by the end of 2014 and in more countries in 2015.
Google outlined the pricing and expansion details in a marketing document seen by Reuters. The company is due to host an official media event later on Monday.
India is seen as a lucrative market for low-cost smartphones because many people are buying the devices for the first time. Just 10 percent of the India’s population currently owns a smartphone, brokerage Nomura said in a recent research note, and that figure is likely to double over the next four years.
Google, however, is not the only company jostling for a share of the Indian market.
There are at least 80 smartphone brands in India and analysts say the Android One phones must offer customers more than just affordability if it wants to compete with similarly priced devices made by Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, Motorola and China’s Xiaomi.
“The initial pricing never sticks but it’ll be tough for them to compete if they don’t come down further,” said Neil Shah, research director for devices and ecosystems at Hong Kong-based technology research agency Counterpoint Research.
In June, Google had announced the launch of the Android One project, which aims to boost demand for low-end Android smartphones by vastly improving their quality.
The open letter is signed by Quickflix CEO Stephen Langsford and addressed to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and the internet community. Langsford asks Netflix to Australia through the front door. He accuses it of ignoring backdoor access to its services, hauling in cash and stepping on Australian rightsholders.
“Netflix not only knowingly collects revenues from subscribers with unauthorised access to your US service, investing nothing in the Australian market nor paying for Australian rights to the content you make available, but also tacitly encourages Australian consumers to inadvertently breach the copyright of the content owners,” he said.
“Unlike yourself, Quickflix has obtained all necessary Australian rights to the content on its platform, faithfully meets all necessary security requirements, including geo-filtering imposed by the content rights holders, and continues to reinvest in its service with the goal of offering the very best service in the market to its customers.”
We have asked Netflix to comment on this, but so far it has not responded.
Langsford made some suggestions to Hastings about getting Netflix’s game in order, starting with a legal launch and a VPN lockdown.
“We challenge Netflix to play by the rules. It’s how we do it here in Australia. Stop turning a blind eye to the VPN services acting as a gateway to your service. Be honest and face up to the issue of unauthorised access to your US service,” he said in his sign off.
“Have the courage to limit your service only to the territories where you have legally obtained the rights to operate by abiding by the geo-filtering obligations required by your content license agreements. And do so immediately.”
The Quickflix CEO said that he looked forward to fair and square competition and the resulting benefits to Australians.
That’s the logic behind Ericsson’s planned $95 million acquisition of Fabrix Systems, which sells a cloud-based platform for delivering DVR (digital video recorder), video on demand and other services.
The acquisition is intended to help service providers deliver what Ericsson calls TV Anywhere, for viewing on multiple devices with high-quality and relevant content for each user. Cable operators, telecommunications carriers and other service providers are seeing rapid growth in video streaming and want to reach consumers on multiple screens. That content increasingly is hosted in cloud data centers and delivered via Internet Protocol networks.
Fabrix, which has 103 employees in the U.S. and Israel, sells an integrated platform for media storage, processing and delivery. Ericsson said the acquisition will make new services possible on Ericsson MediaFirst and Mediaroom as well as other TV platforms.
Stockholm-based Ericsson expects the deal to close in the fourth quarter. Fabrix Systems will become part of Ericsson’s Business Unit Support Solutions.
Other players usually associated with data networks are also moving into the once-specialized realm of TV. At last year’s CES, Cisco Systems introduced Videoscape Unity, a system for providing unified video services across multiple screens, and at this year’s show it unveiled Videoscape Cloud, an OpenStack-based video delivery platform that can be run on service providers’ cloud infrastructure instead of on specialized hardware.
Hewlett-Packard Co is taking a look at putting its web-based photo sharing service Snapfish on the block, and has held discussions with multiple private equity and industry buyers, a person with knowledge of the situation said.
Snapfish, which HP bought for more than $300 million in 2005 and currently sits within its printing and personal systems group, is considered non-core for the company, the person said, asking not to be named because the matter is not public.
A spokesman for HP declined to comment.
Last year, HP replaced the printing and personal business’ long-time head Todd Bradley with former Lenovo executive Dion Weisler. Bradley has since left the technology company, to join Tibco Software Inc as its president.
Some of the parties that have been eyeing Snapfish have also expressed interest in buying another online photo-sharing services provider, Shutterfly Inc, the person said.
Shutterfly hired Frank Quattrone’s Qatalyst Partners over the summer to find a buyer, and is expected wrap up its process in the next several weeks, people familiar with the matter have said previously.
Customers may have to wait three to four weeks to get their hands on Apple Inc’s iPhone 6 Plus, after a record number of orders for the company’s latest smartphones put a huge dent in the available supply.
The new iPhone 6 goes on sale on Sept. 19 in the United States but the company began taking online orders on Thursday. While the larger 5.5-inch “Plus” models now display a wait time of up to a month, the 4.7-inch version remains available for delivery on Sept. 19, Apple’s website showed.
Verizon Wireless, AT&T and Sprint Corp, also showed shipment delays of up to six weeks on their respective websites. Apple said the pace of orders has so far outstripped any of its previous iPhones.
“Response to iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus has been incredible, with a record number of pre-orders overnight. Pre-orders are currently available online or through the Apple Store App,” spokeswoman Trudy Muller said.
Apple routinely grapples with iPhone supply constraints, particularly in years that involve a smartphone re-design. The latest iPhones come with larger screens and some analysts had anticipated that production issues may keep a lid on initial runs.
Its suppliers had scrambled to get enough screens ready because the need to redesign a key component had disrupted panel production, supply chain sources told Reuters last month.
It was unclear whether the hiccup could limit the number of phones available to consumers, the sources said at the time. Apple declined to comment on supply chain issues.
In addition, Chinese customers may also have to wait until the year-end before they can buy the iPhone 6. Apple is yet to set a release date for China, the world’s biggest smartphone market.
The company unveiled its latest iPhones along with a watch and a mobile payments service last Tuesday.
The new offering, called Wi-Fi Un-leashed, is open to all subscribers to the carrier’s Simple Choice plans. It could vastly expand the places those customers can exchange calls and text messages.
In addition to domestic use, it will allow calls into the U.S. from any Wi-Fi network outside the country, using the subscriber’s regular T-Mobile number and no additional apps. Starting Sept. 17, Wi-Fi Un-leashed also extends to flights on U.S. airlines — minus the voice calls — with unlimited text, picture messaging and visual voicemail through a partnership with in-flight Wi-Fi provider Gogo.
Wi-Fi plays a growing role in mobile operator networks, bringing in extra capacity without sapping their expensive licensed spectrum, because Wi-Fi runs over unlicensed bands. Hotspots have been a key part of T-Mobile’s infrastructure for years, but the services unveiled on Wednesday go further than any major U.S. carrier to date. It’s the latest strategy by the nation’s fourth-largest carrier to grab market share from its larger rivals through unconventional plans.
The Wi-Fi calling feature lets users make high-definition calls over wireless LANs and keep those calls going as they switch over to T-Mobile’s LTE and 3G networks, CTO Neville Ray wrote in a blog post on Wednesday. T-Mobile introduced HD calling across its LTE network earlier this year using VoLTE (voice-over-LTE) technology.
Wi-Fi voice and text essentially extends T-Mobile’s coverage and network capacity without additional network deployments, and the company wants to help its subscribers make that possible. On Wednesday it introduced the T-Mobile Personal CellSpot, an access point that users can plug in anywhere they have a broadband connection, T-Mobile said. The Personal CellSpot will prioritize T-Mobile voice calls over other traffic going over the broadband link, Ray said. Starting Sept. 17, any Simple Choice subscriber with a Wi-Fi voice handset can get a Personal CellSpot free with a $25 deposit.
The company said it was also exploring other options, including a sale or an investment, and liquidation as the last resort.
RadioShack, whose sales have been in free-fall since 2010 as it struggles to compete with internet retailers, said in a regulatory filing it was working with its lenders and landlords to restructure its debt and cut costs.
“It would surprise me if we got to Nov. 1 without a bankruptcy,” Wedbush Securities Inc analyst Michael Pachter told Reuters.
RadioShack shares, which are in danger of being delisted from the New York Stock Exchange, were up 2 percent at 95 cents in volatile early trading.
The company said same-store sales declined 20 percent in the latest quarter, while total sales plunged to their lowest in more than 20 years.
The company is being advised by a restructuring attorney at law firm Jones Day as it tries to strike a deal with creditors to close stores, two people close to the matter told Reuters on Wednesday.
RadioShack tried to close 1,100 stores this year, but reduced that number to 200 a year when lenders did not agree to the plans.
RadioShack’s landlords, however, may be open to mass store closures if they believe it will allow them to find new tenants more quickly than in a bankruptcy, a source close to the matter told Reuters.
David Tawil, president of hedge fund Maglan Capital that focuses on companies approaching bankruptcy, said he saw “major execution risks” to RadioShack’s recapitalization and turnaround efforts.
“I don’t think that the chances are great that RadioShack survives,” Tawil said, adding that the company’s credit default swaps were trading higher, pointing to market expectations of a near-term debt default.
The company ended the second quarter with $30.5 million in cash and $658.0 million in debt, which matures between 2018 and 2019.
Intel demoed its “no wires future” of wireless gigabit docking at its Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in California.
Intel wireless gigabit docking is a fully cable-free experience that includes wireless docking, wireless display and wireless charging. Intel demonstrated a reference design based on a next generation 14nm Intel processor on stage during its opening keynote on Tuesday.
Intel hopes to implement this technology by the end of 2015.
“Not only your wireless display, but storage, keyboard and mouse – all the other peripherals you have that have been weighing down our backpacks or strewn across our desk, we’re eliminating with one technology, and that’s wireless gigabit,” said an Intel expert on stage.
“It’s not only a secure and also localised connection – so you can use it in high dense areas such as in an office – but also extremely fast performing at over three times the performance of today’s WiFi.
“But while that’s cool we still have one more cord in our bag and let’s get rid of it: ditch that brick. That last thing that’s weighing us down is [resolved by] wireless power; the ease of use and installation it has is really going to be an advantage using the wireless resonance technology.”
The technology works over a simple receiver that goes into client devices, along with a resonance board that acts as a dock, which creates its own wireless hotspot.
Intel demonstrated how the standard will work using a laptop that automatically powered up and charged as soon as it reached the surface of the table due to the magnetic charging field built into the desk surface.
Intel said that this technology could also charge wireless Bluetooth earpieces, wearable devices, tablets and notebooks. However, it doesn’t have to be built into devices to work, as Intel said it can also be retrofitted into the cases of the devices we are carrying around.
Intel’s wireless gigabit technology is another push towards the firm’s vision of a cable-free future, meaning there’ll be no annoying wires or leads connecting computers to monitors, laptops to plug sockets or tablets to projectors.
The semiconductor giant first announced this view in August, saying that it’s looking to change the enterprise IT market with a strategy that will offer “three major experiences” in the office, that is, wireless display connectivity, wireless docking and wireless charging.
The acquisition of Movirtu helps BlackBerry ramp up its portfolio of services to cater to the needs of its core base of corporate and government clients. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
Movirtu’s virtual SIM technology allows an individual to have both a personal and business number on a single mobile device, with separate billing for voice, data and messaging usage on each number.
This allows employees to switch between work and personal profiles easily without carrying multiple devices or SIM cards.
“Clearly this fits nicely within the strategy we have so far articulated. We are building recurring revenue streams in value-added services and providing more value to enterprises,” the head of BlackBerry’s enterprise unit John Sims said in an interview.
Sims said Movirtu’s technology would allow IT administrators for example to restrict calls and emails to a work number after a particular time, without blocking personal calls or emails to the same device.
BlackBerry, which dominated the smartphone market in its infancy, has been reshaping itself over the course of the last year as its devices have lost ground to Apple’s iPhone and a slew of rival devices powered by Google’s Android operating system.
Under the leadership of its new chief executive John Chen, the company has moved rapidly to stabilize itself by selling certain assets, partnering to make its manufacturing and supply chain more efficient, and raising cash via the sale of its real estate holdings.
Chen, a well-regarded turnaround artist in the tech sector, intends to remain a competitor in the smartphone arena, but is focused on reshaping the company to build on its core strengths in areas like mobile data security and mobile device management.
The company has been making small acquisitions in the last few months, as it looks to build out its offerings for so-called enterprise clients made up primarily by large corporations and government agencies that are in many cases still major users of Blackberry devices.
NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, or MAVEN, spacecraft is closing in on its 10-month journey to Mars’ orbit, from where it will study the planet’s atmosphere and shed more light on its history.
The craft was launched by NASA from Cape Canaveral last November. It’s set to to enter Mars’ orbit, on schedule, Sept. 21. The interplanetary journey took MAVEN over 442 million miles.
“We’re the first mission devoted to observing the upper atmosphere of Mars and how it interacts with the sun and the solar wind,” said Bruce Jakosky, principal investigator for MAVEN at the University of Colorado in Boulder.
MAVEN is loaded with scientific instruments designed to help scientists find out what happened to the planet’s atmosphere and the water that flowed there long ago. With each orbit, the instruments will measure the composition, structure and escape of atmospheric gases.
“MAVEN’s orbit through the tenuous top of the atmosphere will be unique among Mars missions,” said Jakosky. “We’ll get a new perspective on the planet and the history of the Martian climate, liquid water and planetary habitability by microbes.”
Scientists hope that Maven can provide another piece of the puzzle that is the history of Mars. For years now, researchers have been trying to figure out if Mars was ever had water flowing on its surface, if it was able to support life and what happened to its atmosphere.
To explore Mars, NASA has other orbiters and has had three robotic rovers, including the super rover Curiosity, and Opportunity, which has been working on Mars for more than 10 years. The robots have been searching for clues to Mars’ history on the surface and have found evidence of ancient water flows.
MAVEN, NASA’s first spacecraft with a sole goal of studying the Martian atmosphere, will set its sights on scientific research above the planet. How much gas from Mars’ atmosphere has been lost to space throughout the planet’s history? What drove that loss?
NASA engineers will be uploading software updates – over millions of miles – to provide information needed by the craft to manage its location, velocity and orientation so it can insert itself, without human intervention, into Mars orbit. The entire insertion will be guided by MAVEN’s onboard computers.
Approximately 14 million ultra-high definition (UHD) 4K2K television sets have been shipped worldwide in 2014, penetrating 6-7% of the overall TV market, according to WitsView, a subsidiary of Taiwan-based market intelligence firm TrendForce.
Chinese vendors, including Skyworth, Changhong and Hisense, have the highest shipment rates. The six largest Chinese brands, which also include Konka, TCL and Haier, will achieve a 13-15% penetration rate in the UHD TV market this year, the firm projects.
The spec of 4K2K TV means 3,840 X 2,160 pixel resolution compared with HD TV, which has a resolution of 1,920 X 1,080. UHD TV has four times the resolution of HDTV.
“China’s six major 4K2K TV brands price their products very competitively,” Anita Wang, a research manager at WitsView, said in a statement. “Other vendors can’t offer such an attractive price proposition.”
Last month, the retail price difference in China between 65-in 4K2K 3D and HD 3D TVs was 32%, but in other markets it was as high as 63%, Wang said. As a result, Chinese consumers are more willing to purchase 4K2K televisions, Wang added.
One of the biggest issues facing the UHD TV market is a lack of “available” content. That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of 4K movies and TV shows ready to be streamed to the public. Since 2004, the movie and television industry has been producing 4K content for the digital market.
“Broadcasters will always use the best equipment they can, because they want to be able to archive and repurpose that content in the future. But that’s a long ways from saying they have 4K content in the production chain,” said Paul Gray, director of TV Electronics Research at DisplaySearch.
Buying a 4K UHD TV today requires a leap of faith in two ways: You need to believe broadcasters will begin streaming 4K content soon and feel confident that the content will conform to a standard a new UHD TV can decode and process.
“Neither of those things are clear because there are no standards for 4K video,” Gray said.
LCD computer monitors are also starting to become available in UHD and feature attractive price tags, she said. For example, the 28-in 4K2K monitor retailed at an average of just $630 in August. In the coming months, panel makers will continue to introduce new 4K2K monitors in different sizes.
For example, Samsung is expected to launch a 23.6-in model that will be priced lower than the existing 23.8-in model. That will help to further drive down retail prices and stimulate 4K2K monitor demand.
Meanwhile, Apple is expected to release the 27-in 5K3K high-resolution iMac by the end of the fourth quarter of 2014.
Verizon Communications will give customers who trade in an old iPhone a free iPhone 6 in exchange for a two-year contract, the country’s largest wireless carrier announced hours after Apple Inc introduced the widely anticipated device.
The announcement came as critics speculated that Apple’s newest phone, starting at $199 with a two-year contract, would not be competitive as more carriers eliminate contracts and unbundle service charges from the cost of devices.
Analysts say that by making the cost of devices more transparent, equipment financing plans make expensive handsets like the iPhone less appealing. On the other hand, the plans allow customers to pay for devices in installments, making pricy devices like the iPhone more accessible.
Customers who trade in an iPhone 4, 4s, 5, 5c or 5s in working condition will receive a $200 gift card to pre-order the 16-gigabyte version of the newer model, Verizon said in a statement. The offer does not apply to Apple’s other new phone, the larger iPhone 6 Plus.
Verizon has been more reluctant than competitors to dive into equipment financing, and its promotion indicates its attachment to the older contract model, which binds subscribers to the carrier for a fixed term, said Jan Dawson, analyst at JackDaw Research.
“There is an inherent risk in the shift to installment billing that it creates more loyalty to the device than to the carrier,” said Dawson.
“Verizon sees the value of the two-year contract in that tying a device to a two-year plan can prevent churn,” said Dawson.
He pointed out that new device releases are major factors for subscribers in deciding whether to switch carriers.
As the market for new smartphone customers shrinks, carriers have been competing aggressively for subscribers, slashing prices and engaging in creative promotions to poach each others’ customers.
On Monday, T-Mobile announced it would beat any other major carriers’ trade-in rates and give customers a $50 credit as well.
Intel has released its Edison chip for wearables at its Intel developer conference (IDF) in California today. The tiny computer is a dual-core Quark system on chip (SoC) Pentium-class x86 processor made using the 22nm process.
The Edison device runs Linux and has built-in WiFi and Bluetooth modules. The chip can also connect to its own app store, and has 40 I/Os via a 70-pin connector that lets users do many things without going through a custom board. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich Intel said that the module, which has the footprint of an SD card, was to encourage developers to build the next generation of wearable and connected devices now that it is shipping.
All IDF attendees went home with a free Edison developer kit and it will be on sale for $50 retail cost. Like the Galileo board it will be open source so developers can develop it.
“I really hope to see an explosion of innovation around this part, it has everything a person needs and an extension capability to build just about anything you can think of,” he said.
Edison has been developed by Intel to be a simple low-power development platform for people to develop software easily, thus to usher in the next generation of Internet of Things (IoT) and wearable devices.